The tyranny of tolerance.

Ever heard of a grander paradox?

The Telegraph continues to degenerate into a religious rag worthy of the American right. It seems set on helping The Mail and the Catholic Church pump up a culture war that Britain has no appetite for, and it undoubtedly wants the darker members of the Tory backbench to come out in force. It hasn’t quite gone as far as an Editorial condemnation of the Conservative proposals for marriage reform, but that’s surely on the way. For now it’s apparently content to sell its Op-Eds out to others to do the gay-bashing on its behalf. There was this barely a month ago, followed by the publishing of four anti-gay marriage letters in a day, added to coverage of Lord Carey’s rant. And then today Cardinal Keith O’Brien pens a wonderfully awful piece, dripping with bad arguments that can barely even pretend to be a cloak for prejudice. And they give him the front page story.

Some highlights:

[S]uch relationships are harmful to the physical, mental and spiritual wellbeing of those involved.

[It] is clear that this proposal is not about rights, but rather is an attempt to redefine marriage for the whole of society at the behest of a small minority of activists.

If same-sex marriage is enacted into law what will happen to the teacher who wants to tell pupils that marriage can only mean – and has only ever meant – the union of a man and a woman? Will that teacher’s right to hold and teach this view be respected or will it be removed? Will both teacher and pupils simply become the next victims of the tyranny of tolerance, heretics, whose dissent from state-imposed orthodoxy must be crushed at all costs?

[M]arriage has always existed in order to bring men and women together so that the children born of those unions will have a mother and a father.

Imagine for a moment that the Government had decided to legalise slavery but assured us that “no one will be forced to keep a slave”. Would such worthless assurances calm our fury?

The Universal Declaration on Human Rights is crystal clear: marriage is a right which applies to men and women.

If the Government attempts to demolish a universally recognised human right, they will have forfeited the trust which society has placed in them and their intolerance will shame the United Kingdom in the eyes of the world.

So he starts with a healthy dose of paternalist bravado insisting that the status quo is for the benefit of gay people, before moving onto an argument from popular support (which he probably loses). Then there’s that self-evident right of teachers to not imply to children that being gay is fine, added to an argument based on the alleged ‘function’ of marriage (which nicely bans infertile straight people from participating in the institution too). He also squeezes in an argument from the authority of a document (the only surprise is it’s not the Bible), and draws a compelling analogy with slavery. And for the Cardinal’s final magic trick, he manages to round things off with a staggering debasement of language in which the concept of ‘rights’ gets twisted into an argument against gay marriage. Because straight people have the right to define marriage exclusively as being between a man and a woman because – that’s how things have always been.

You know things are getting embarrassing when a popular comment below your piece resembles your own message:

Who would be the wife in such a “marriage”? Both of them? Or would both be “husbands”?

I think Cameron will face a small but significant battle over this, and I applaud him unreservedly for having the balls to fight it. There are enough backbenchers of the Nadine Dorries, Peter Bone variety to cause him some real trouble. He managed to keep silent in the week that Warsi had her outburst, but I suspect there will be enough fire in the Church, press and amongst some politicians to ensure he has no choice but to state his position publicly and powerfully. Only the fact that there will be a cross-party consensus on this could mean he doesn’t have to. But I hope he does have to. I want to hear the arguments, and have it on page one of the papers when we win the war.

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